Last-ditch IS tactics in Sirte, Libya

un-libyaFrom the Libya Herald (associated with the recognized government of Libya and its international partners):

At least two females who seemed to be civilians surrendering to Bunyan Marsous forces, blew themselves up today after being brought inside BM lines, killing four fighters and injuring more than a dozen others.

One of the women had brought two children with her, reported Reuters, but did not detonate her explosives until the infants had been taken to an ambulance.  The children were reportedly hungry and dehydrated.

The Bunyan Marsous and other groups advancing into ISIL territory have called to civilians to bug out, if possible.

This incident follows the flight of other women from IS positions in recent days, in response to loudhailer calls for civilians to escape while they could. One young Tunisian girl who surrendered earlier this week has had her story of being duped into joining IS given wide publicity by the BM operations room.

The US continues desultory air strikes.

Yesterday according to US Africa Command,  there were three US air strikes all against terrorist positions.  There have now been 470 American raids since August.

Libyan Government forces and their allies, like Bunyan Marsous, are doing what they can for force protection.

On Wednesday a BM commander was reported to have said that his men would be holding back from further advances and loss of life.  Though tanks, armoured cars and self-propelled guns continue to be in the front line, the attackers have largely been content to bombard terrorist positions while laying down suppressive fire.

And learning a lot about IS defensive tactics.

With the capture of each new building, the extent of the IS defences becomes clearer, with networks of bomb shelters, tunnels and communication lines knocked through buildings. Some of this labyrinth is booby-trapped, a few parts, it seems are well concealed. It is reported that today terrorists started firing from a building that had been taken and supposedly cleared by BM fighters. It is not known if the  terrorists had hidden themselves inside the ruins or had later returned to it through tunnels.

This should be not much of a surprise. It’s conventional MOUT defensive tactics, and ISIL leadership primarily come from the Saddam-era and Qaddafi-era conventional armies. ISIL messaging in particular always shows their troops, unlike pro-government forces in Iraq, Libya and Syria, in standardized uniforms.

In other news from the Herald, one gets the impression that the chaos that Libya is already, is spinning further out of control. A presumed ISIL operative planted a bomb in a latrine in the Benghazi hospital treating government troops, and a battle kicked off in Tripoli between forces loyal to the Presidency Council and forces of former allies grand mufti Sadek Al-Ghariani, ploitical figure Khalifa Ghwell, and their Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Read The Whole Thing™ to get a sense of the factional chaos that now reigns in Qaddafi’s former kingdom. Even with a program, it’s functionally impossible to tell the various players apart.

Update: 1130R

Some typos noted by John M. below have been fixed.

With respect to Sirte, media are reporting today that it has fallen to Libyan government forces and the ISIL-associated militiamen have fled or been destroyed.

The suicide attack of the woman with accompanying children was both a response to the Libyan government (etc.) forces’ calls for noncombatants to come out, and an illustration of an ineffective last-ditch tactic (did kamikaze attacks ever win anything, even tactically? No, they just sacrifice people to kill a few enemies, and the kamikaze side always loses in the end).

The short-term prognosis is probably further government gains over a divided and largely ruined nation. The long term prognosis is probably seething, perpetual rebellion and persistence of a failed state across the Med from Italy.

20 thoughts on “Last-ditch IS tactics in Sirte, Libya

  1. John M.

    Incomplete graf alert:

    “The Bunyan Marsous and other groups advancing into ISIL territory have called to civilians to”

    From a quote:
    “…in response to loudhailer calls for civilians…”

    Say what, now?

    Double say what, now:
    “In other news from the Herald, one gets the impression that the chaos that Libya is already is wpining further out of control.”

    Additionally, the article seems like a non sequitur to the headline. The headline makes it sound like IS is on the ropes in Sirte, whereas the article makes it sound like Libya is just a complete catastrophe from head to tail. Both of these may be true, but the article doesn’t support the headline IMHO. Maybe it’s because your closing paragraph zooms out from Sirte (which isn’t mentioned specifically in the text, BTW) and covers Libya more broadly. Maybe I’m just being too picky.

    -John M.

    1. Docduracoat

      Libya will have peace in the future, just like Somalia will.
      Once someone has won the war
      General Hiftar was likely to win, but seems to have lost Western support.
      So the carnage goes on until one faction eliminates all the others.

      1. Distant Thunder

        He’s still got support from the Gulf states and Western militaries ( as opposed to diplomats) do still favor him. This is in part because the so-called Government of National Accord decided to get in bed with militias that are part of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which the soldiers and officers have figured out never ends well. Gen. Hiftar and the Libyan National Army is still the best faction to bet on, as sooner or later the MB will do something nastily violent and fanatical that they wear out their welcome with the diplomats again.

        1. bloke_from_ohio

          “…sooner or later the MB will do something nastily violent and fanatical…”

          Bloke’s first axiom of human interaction at the group level:

          Should a party, sect, tribe, or other group gain any sort of power, expect them to get really good at using it to oppress and torment other competing groups. This competence for harassment and persecution seems to be entirely unlinked or related to the groups ability to do anything else efficiently. This axiom applies to nearly all cultures, some are just less subtle than others.

  2. Trone Abeetin

    I guess it’s just me but I would insist that the press stop referring to my group as “BM”.

  3. Chris

    Perhaps after a century of failed self-government in Africa, it’s time to reinstitute colonialism. But rather than imposed colonialism, requested colonialism. People wanting a stable, functioning government might prefer, say, a British colonial government to the dictator of the day. As a bonus, they could pay Britain for management services. A win – win for both sides.

    1. John M.

      Maybe everyone can just stay home. Libyans get whatever flavor of misgovernment they want, and Europeans don’t have to deal with zillions of people crossing the Med on rubber rafts. This is why we have different countries.

      -John M.

        1. John M.

          Meh. “Everyone stays home” doesn’t even begin to describe US/Cuban relations for the last 50 years. Or 150, for that matter.

          -John M.

    2. S

      Is that with British police, French cooks, Swiss trains, German roads and cars, Italian entertainers and Swedish nurses, or is a different distribution of responsabilties likely?

    1. Hognose Post author

      Looks like the same video to me? Vintage possibly 1880s-90s. Early breechloader, still using sweated or welded on rings for strength. Soon after 1900 no one was making guns like this. appears to predate the recoil arrangements of Krupp and Schneider (aka French 75) but it’s hard to tell in the improv carriage.

    2. S

      That thing again….doesn’t look like a QF type, likely a bag charge de Bange breech, perhaps with modern projectiles jury rigged. What Warpac ammo would be easiest fit for such a dinosaur? 152 mm?

  4. Sommerbiwak

    “(did kamikaze attacks ever win anything, even tactically?”

    Well legend has it that Pionier Carl Klinke assaulted the danish position with 30 pounds of explosives and blowing up the danish palisades killing himself in the attack. While famous and immortalised in a poem by Theodor Fontane, there is no hard proof of this action during the battle Dybbøl in 1864. But if this actually happened it would be a successful kamikaze attack.


    I understand that things were better in Libya under Gaddafi, and we’d all be better off if they’d stayed that way, for some narrow definitions of “better”.

    That being said, I’m incredibly weary of all the bullshit that muslims are bringing to the west, so news of muslims brassing up other muslims always brings a cheery smile to my face these days, especially when they’re doing it in muslimville rather than my AO.

  6. bloke_from_ohio

    Hognose’s “program” was a real physical object thing in my office during a different conflict with similar dynamics. It was a binder roughly the size of a medium to large phonebook. Even armed with such a report on the actors and malcontents, it was tough to keep track of what the hell was going on sometimes.

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